Gig economy: Growing number of older workers taking temporary jobs to ease transition into retirement, study finds

Flexibility a key factor in drawing those near the close of their careers towards taking on further short-term roles

Joe Sommerlad
Monday 19 February 2018 16:24 GMT
Older people are increasingly working passed the state pension age
Older people are increasingly working passed the state pension age

Over a third of people working in the booming gig economy who are above the age of 55 say that they are drawn to temporary jobs to ease the transition into retirement, a new study has shown.

Insurance company Zurich UK surveyed 4,200 people on workplace culture, of which over 600 were part of the gig economy. It found that many value the changing modern workplace for the flexibility it offers. In fact, more than 10 per cent of all gig workers questioned said they only expect to stop working after the age of 75 – almost ten years after passing state pension age.

The UK's gig economy has doubled in size since the turn of the millennium, now comprising 5 million people. It includes freelancers, agency workers and those on zero-hour contracts. Meanwhile, the employment rate for British workers aged between 50 and 64 has grown dramatically over the last 30 years, from 55.4 per cent to 69.6 per cent.

But there are severe drawbacks to these roles, including a lack of security or access to workplace benefits like sick pay, holiday pay and income protection. Many of those downsides were highlighted in an extensive review published by Matthew Taylor, a former policy chief to Tony Blair and chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, last year.

Of those surveyed, 44 per cent cited income protection as the biggest problem associated with gig work, while 34 per cent said it was uncertainty about where their next pay cheque was coming from. Almost a third expressed concern about not having a workplace pension.

Of the UK's 32 million-strong workforce, one in six is now considered a gig worker, according to Zurich, often working for such companies as Uber and Deliveroo that have redefined conventional employee-employer relations in a bid to adapt to changing consumer demands.

“The shift is nothing less than transformational, and while gig work offers real opportunity to many, it also presents risk,” said Chris Atkinson, Zurich's head of consumer distribution, commenting on the report.

”The gig economy is a 19th century welfare system trying to navigate a 21st century employment model, and this mismatch can mean workers have no, or restricted access to, workplace benefits including long-term savings.“

This month Business Secretary Greg Clark pledged an overhaul of employments rights with a view to improving conditions for those in less secure work.

"We want to embrace new ways of working, and to do so we will be one of the first countries to prepare our employment rules to reflect the new challenges," he told the BBC.

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